After the entourage of articles about the zoological malfunction/parental distraction/ unfortunate situation of the poor dear Harambe’s death…I am left feeling contemplative and also furious: here’s why. Most of the publications I read on the topic addressed the horrific parts about blaming parents who were doing their best, children who are clearly out of control/very active and curious (and perhaps lacking discipline), and also the lack of appropriate enclosures on the part of the zoo. The contraceptive mentality of our nation and the disastrous way we treat one another, even less humanely than we treat our pets or zoo animals is very troubling! But even more so the complete and utter lack of ways that we (parents) can assist and support one another.
So that’s what I’ll be writing about today.
We know, parents, that we have a child hating society. It’s truly sad, but it is what it is. People are daily confused and annoyed with my husband and I for having so many. And if that weren’t bad enough, they actually talk to us about it. Pretty much everywhere we go (other than Church) we get looks, finger pointing, and ridiculously obvious questions and comments. Also, most public places aren’t safe for children. We can now add the zoo to the list. There aren’t many people who consider children a blessing, so it appears the opposite is assumed to be true. And most people won’t acknowledge children, let alone reach out and help some parent who is struggling, or a child who is having a hard time. Just think how that whole gorilla debacle could have gone differently if another person (other than his biological mother or father), God Forbid!– had seen that the boy climb over the fence, and had jumped in behind him, and brought him to the information booth at the beginning of the zoo, and he had to sit somewhere for a while before his parents had found out he was missing and came to retrieve him? That would have been different. The gorilla would be alive, and the boy’s parents would have been horrified to find him missing, but they wouldn’t be plagued with the vision of their dear boy being dragged around by a silverback for the rest of their lives, and maybe, just maybe that boy would be left with a more realistic impression: everyone here is watching out for my well-being, and I am not allowed in that enclosure!
I want to start a petition, or make a universal declaration, or create some password so that other parents in my vicinity know, that although I am not helicoptering, I most certainly am watching/listening and will definitely let your child know if they are misbehaving, or being inappropriate, and I will also not keep that a secret from you, and I would very much like it if this arrangement would be reciprocal.
For instance: we are at a park and your kid starts throwing rocks at mine, I do like this,”Little Boy, you are certainly not going to throw rocks, understand? If I see it again you will be sitting out, and I will also inform your mother.” Why can’t this be the norm? I see the kid’s mom over there trying to push the three and five-year-olds on the swings, why can’t the two-year-old hear this from me?? Why are we so distrustful and judgmental of other parents? Dude, the Mommy Wars are a real thing. I’ve met a woman who was too embarrassed to come to Bible Study because she couldn’t nurse their newborn and so felt judged and questioned by other moms–and so…she stopped coming! Isn’t that terrible!? It’s like by standing around in our messed up world, we absorb these ideas, that we are perfectly willing to put above normal human dignity. Yes, breastfeeding is ideal– but occasionally for various reasons a mother cannot or does not nurse her baby. Fine. Shut up about it. She doesn’t need your scrutiny! For heaven’s sake wipe that smug look off your face and congratulate her on her new baby. If she brings up feeding and asks your ADVICE, then, cool- say your piece, but otherwise, keep quiet!
I can think of many similar examples, but instead of boring you, I have written a ‘support your local family’ list:
- Always congratulate and smile at new parents. It’s the hardest transition a person can make, and if you can brighten their day in any way, God Bless YOU!
- Consider doing something concrete for the parents in your area. Get on the list for sending a meal, offer to care for other children, or donate to the babysitter fund.
- Avoid making assumptions. If something baffles you about a particular family, like for instance how many (or few) kids they have, feel free to allow that to be a mystery until your relationship supports those types of questions. Frankly, commenting on a perfect strangers fertility is rude.
- Make yourself available when in public. If you see a kid wandering, tap the mom or dad on the shoulder gently and say. “hey! I noticed your young one wandering off, just thought I’d give you a heads up!” No parent minds this, especially if you smile and speak kindly.
- Sign up to help. You are only as limited as you let yourself be. Offer to help at the local YMCA kids camp, sign up at church, school, or whatever you see as a need in your area. Do you realize that if everyone volunteered in their town we wouldn’t have such stressed parents/kids/families? It really does take a village! What can you do???
- The next time you feel yourself getting judgemental of a neighbor, family member, or friend, say this quick prayer that the priest who married Abel and I taught us: “Lord, help me to see __________ as you see them, and Lord help ___________ to see me that way you see me.” It’s always good to look at things from a new perspective. I am not God, so it’s not up to me what others are up to, how they choose to parent, or not parent. We are only responsible for our own reactions: may they be ripe with mercy.
- Work together!! For goodness sake, when you need help with something, childcare, home cleaning, schooling, whatever– reach out to the people you trust and look up to in your community! You would not believe the things us old women do for each other when we are bonded by some common experiences.We start homeschool co-ops, date night drop offs, we even pull off fundraisers, garage sales, and pamper sessions for the bride/expectant mother/grandma! We can cook meals, watch extra children, clean till we can’t clean no more! It’s simply amazing to see what can be accomplished when we all pitch in. Be not afraid, girls.
When you are where you are this summer, especially if you happen to find yourself in a large crowd, keep your wits about you. Be on high alert, and do not be afraid to tap a shoulder, scream at other people’s children, and smile at strangers doing the very same thing. If there is a place for a four-year-old to sneak into, say, a gorilla habitat; holler to the surrounding people and get your bad self in the way of that kid….God has called us to be parents, and even though most days we are drowning in coffee, climbing out of vans that release crumbs, shoes, and hairy brushes when the doors open…we are in this together! And don’t let anyone confuse the agenda- we are here to keep the little folks alive, healthy, and holy. And we are doing this every day, relying on sheer adrenaline, caffeine, guardian angels, and yes, occasionally- the kindness of strangers….